As recently as 2005, tenured agent sales productivity lagged behind
prior years' results and new agent productivity, and was not
contributing to the organization's need for double-digit growth.
Extensive research to determine the underlying cause of this
downward trend in performance identified several key drivers of
agency success, including the vital role the district manager plays
with the agent; existing ineffective training that was not
consistent in its content, timing, or delivery; and incentives,
compensation, expectations, and training for both agents and
district managers that were not integrated nor aligned with needed
behaviors for growth and success.
This led to the creation of Farmers Journey to Success (JTS), which
was introduced in February of 2006 to increase the sales
performance of selected insurance and financial services agents
while simultaneously upgrading their managers' skills in coaching
JTS provides the district managers with the tools needed to manage
agent performance through:
- improved coaching relationships
- increased expectations
- incentives and recognition
- increased compensation opportunity
- additional agent training
To accomplish the primary objective, a unique three-week cycle was
developed that includes knowledge transfer, skill building,
implementation, and coaching and consultation.
This three-week frame strikes a near perfect balance between the
organization's need for immediate business results and the need to
allow 21 days for behavior change before introducing new concepts.
Journey to Success
The primary audience for the training program is tenured, full-time
agents and their employees. These agents are independent
contractors, not employees of Farmers, and are responsible for
running all aspects of their business. Agent participation was
optional and began with an informational introductory meeting,
followed by a business planning session and 13 contiguous
three-week coaching cycles resulting in a 10-month program.
A typical three-week cycle for an agent includes completion of a
20-minute online training module on Monday or Tuesday of week one.
The module delivers the knowledge for successful execution of
skills related to the cycle's topic. Then one to two days later,
agents participate in a small group meeting - a success session -
with their district manager to review the business activities,
experiences, and results accomplished from the prior module; skill
development of material related to the current module; and
implementation planning for the newly acquired skills.
Every success session includes an opening exercise; interactive
skill-building activities; suggested approaches and materials for
agency staff knowledge and skill transfer; and additional online
resources for tools and learning materials.
Agents are encouraged to return and implement their plan and new
skills immediately. During week three, their district manager
provides additional coaching and consultation assistance to further
reinforce the new, desirable behaviors in agents and their staff.
The three-week frame is supported by a document completed prior to
the first session, called "My Success Strategy." The agent, with
his district manager's assistance, conducts a gap analysis of
current performance and desired performance. Plans are made and are
revisited in success sessions to determine if additional changes in
agency operations are required based upon newly acquired skills or
District managers play a crucial role in agent development because
field training is one of their major responsibilities. Farmers
created a centralized training program at the corporate university
to align district managers with the revised training program for
tenured agents. This learning event was designed to help district
managers drive performance of tenured agents.
The district manager's curriculum was designed to enhance the
performance of new and tenured agents. District managers are
provided with a complete business development system to give them
the tools to help new agents achieve a fast start as an insurance
and financial services representative.
"Increasing our district managers' facilitation and coaching skills
was key to delivering a different organizational result," says Jim
Harwood, AVP of field training. "Thus, the secondary goal of JTS
was to improve these skills."
JTS was designed to help district managers implement a systemized
coaching and training approach to achieve an improved level of
performance from tenured agents. While extensive training and
development materials were available for new agents, little existed
for experienced agents.
An agency gap analysis and planning document - My Success Strategy
- and a district manager facilitator guide were created to guide
experienced agents through training. The training begins with the
agent completing the My Success Strategy document with the
assistance of the district manager. Through the process of
completing these documents, the district manager and agent build a
relationship as coach and protg. Potential performance gaps are
identified. Agents identify their income goals and steps needed to
reach new performance levels.
Participating JTS agents significantly outproduced both their
counterparts as well as their own prior year's performance (2005).
This is a direct business result that can be tracked to greater
revenue for the organization. Behavior changes are both immediate
and long term. A jump in sales productivity (approximately 6
percent) was seen within just two months of program launch, and
ultimately landed at 7.6 percent nearly one year later.
"The original JTS approach proved so successful, it began to embed
itself as a part of our culture," says Harwood. "Our chief
marketing officer made JTS a foundational component of our
organizational 2007 marketing plan and execution strategy. This
included expansion of the original 13 module series to include
three additional modules surrounding life insurance, as well as
eight additional modules targeted at supporting the small business
These new modules, which launched late in 2007, paid off. A
comparison of 2007 small business sales production for the same
period in 2008 showed significant improvement for the nearly 2,500
- Policies-in-Force: more than 42 percent increase over 2007
- Premium: more than 52 percent increase over 2007.
District managers started integrating JTS as a foundation in the
new agent training that they deliver to more than 8,000 agent
candidates. In 2008 Farmers re-engineered the district managers'
formal new agent training program using the JTS approach and
concepts as the genesis for the program.